When money is tight, sometimes you can’t afford to use our list of the best smartphones to buy a new phone – even best cheap phone rankings can sometimes overlook the cost of living crisis.
But luckily, there’s a way to snag tech without breaking the bank, and that’s by buying refurbished ones. You might think that “refurbished gadgets” are just used devices with a fancier name, but there’s one key difference – these have been expertly restored to feel as good as new.
Well, that’s how refurbished phones generally work, but there are dodgy vendors in the market, as well as many potential pitfalls when buying used tech.
For some advice on staying safe when buying refurbished equipment, we spoke to Katy Medlock, the UK general manager of sales website Backmarket (opens in new tab)so that you are on the safe side and at the same time get affordable technology.
How to look for a refurbished smartphone
Browsing sites like Backmarket and other refurbished sites, you may find that prices are lower than new equivalents – that’s part of buying a used unit, of course.
The discount depends on how new the device is – something like the iPhone 13 has less of a discount than the iPhone 11. But according to the brand, you really should consider the older devices first:
“The perception that you need the latest model forces many people to buy a new device when they might not need it.”
Instead, Backmarket recommends considering any option that suits your specific needs – for example, if you want an iOS device you’ll need an iPhone, and if you want a big-battery phone there’s something like a Moto G device possibly great instead of just buying whatever the latest model is. “There also seems to be a lot of savings in thinking about technology that way.”
We asked if it’s a good time to pick up a refurbished phone and got a pretty straight answer:
“Typically around the time of an announcement from one of the major phone manufacturers, many devices become available as millions ditch their device in favor of the latest technology.”
This will of course depend on the model. If you want an iPhone you should wait for Apple’s annual September event, while if you want a Samsung Galaxy phone you should move your calendar to late January or early February when Samsung generally releases its latest Galaxy S- device on the market.
“A lot of people who want the latest models end up reselling their old device, which is great for refurbished buyers who will find a much wider range of models and prices.”
Are refurbished dealers reliable?
When you buy a new iPhone from Apple, you know it’s going to perform the way the company intended – but that’s not the case when you buy a used and refurbished version. Different sellers may have different standards for what snuff is and may focus on cutting corners to offer low prices.
Backmarket told us that as a third-party site focused on bridging the gap between buyers and sellers, it uses algorithms to change the playing field:
“We don’t display our entire catalogue: instead, our algorithm carefully selects the best value based on value for money, displaying only one product in real-time for each product ID (model, stock, color, quality, etc.). .
“This leads to healthy competition between conditioners that is not based on price and therefore prevents them from undercutting each other. Therefore, they are forced to prioritize the quality of the products they sell on Backmarket.”
The site also points out that “for added peace of mind, all of our products come with a guarantee, meaning they’re just as protected as a new device should they go wrong,” so if you’re really worried about buying a refurbished one, have one you a backup plan.
After receiving your phone
Once you’ve received your affordable refurbished device, there are a few things you can check to ensure you have a fully functional device. In fact, Backmarket pointed out four key areas and things you can check.
Important things to check on your refurbished phone:
1. Battery condition
2. Audio and Microphone
The first of these is battery condition – this is basically how much of its original capacity the battery still has. Things like fast charging, leaving the device plugged in at 100% power, and letting the phone fully discharge can affect this.
You can generally check the battery health in your phone’s settings menu and you should make sure it’s not very low if you’ve just bought a new phone or it won’t last long.
Next comes the phone audio ability, both its speakers and its microphones, and Backmarket proposes a very simple way to test this. Just record a voice memo using the phone’s built-in app (most have one, but names may differ – search the pre-installed apps) and then play it out loud on your device.
When you hear your voice chirp back, you can rest assured that everything is working as intended.
The third thing to check, according to Backmarket, is the back camerasand again the site has a simple test – to check the snappers, take a picture of a plain white sheet of paper or surface.
This allows you to see “potential stains or dust on the lens” which could affect image quality. Remember to do this with all rear cameras if your phone has multiple.
Finally, Backmarket suggests you check them out Screen – You’d hopefully spot errors here fairly quickly, but it’s worth checking by playing a video or looking at a plain white page to see if there are any issues.
According to surveys, buying refurbished phones has never been more popular, partly because of the lower prices, but also because of the reduced carbon footprint of buying or selling used devices. And hopefully this advice lets you join the fun.